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tv   U.S. Senate Debates Rex Tillerson Nomination  CSPAN  January 31, 2017 2:00pm-4:01pm EST

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have come to my office in washington, and alaska, on the phones, and petitions. and their concerns center on her lack of experience in public education and the lack of knowledge she has portrayed her confirmation hearing. they are not satisfied that she would uphold federal civil rights laws and schools that receive federal funding. the question her commitment to students with disability rights under despicable doctoral programs intended to serve them, instead may rob them of the opportunity. >> she did vote in favor of the secretary nominee in the committee but still has reservations as the vote comes to the senate floor. like not to the senate floor. r:e majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the sna is the not in a quorum call. mr. mcconnell: i have nine unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. i ask that these consent be agreed to en bloc.
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the presiding officer: is there any objection? without objection. mr. schumer: i object, mr. president. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. schumer: mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. brown i ask unanimous consent to
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dispense with the -- mr. brown: i disuct to dispense with the quorum call u. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown: i ask to speak in morning business for five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown: i rise to discuss what happened in the finance committee today dosh what didn't happen in the finance committee today. two newspapers, one "the columbus dispatch," one of ohio's best and most conservative newspapers, and "the wall street journal," one of this country's most conservative newspapers, reported that the two nominees in front of the senate finance committee had lied to the committee. secretary designee mnuchin, secretary-something for treasury, had lied about when asked if his bank were unwest had done robosignings, he said no. "the columbus dispatch" investigatorrive reporters found in fact he had -- they had done robosignings. and they found that dozens,
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probably hundreds, maybe thousands of ohioans lost their homes, people who had -- a woman named miss duncan who had paid her mortgage month after month after month, was doing everything right, she was foreclosed on, not anything of her doing, and her financial life was turned upside down. the "wall street journal" reported that congressman price, the designee for health and human services, had lied about insider information he had that he had engaged -- had advantages that other investors didn't have in buying health care stocks, as he sat on a health care committee in the house, as he voted, as he wrote amendments and bills dealing with health care. so you have a secretary of the treasury who has -- these are -- these are nominees for agencies. the two most economic agencies in the federal government probably, at least in the cabinet, who have lied about things that affect people's lives. i mean, hundreds of people,
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thousands maybe in my state -- we're not even the largest state on forecloses by one west -- caused by one west. hundreds of thousands -- who knows how many around the country. he won't tell us yet -- have lost homes because of his and his bank's actions, making him wealthier, to be sure, but upending people's lives in the cruelest kind of wha -- kind ofy when their homes are foreclosed on. we're saying to senator hatch, get some answers here. find out why these two nominees lied. find out what they're going to do to pism it. find out what in fact they have -- what they have in their backgrounds that they haven't disclosed to this committee. we have no business voting on nominees before we have that kind of information. that's the reason that democratic -- democratic senators on the finance committee, led by ranking member wyden, decided not to come to the committee to vote today. because the only way we can get
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senator hatch to bring those two forward to give us the information and to give the american public the information they need was that. i might add, mr. president, that probably we did president trump a favor today, because if these two nominees had been brought forward, i assume passed -- because republicans are voting for every nominee, it seems no matter what -- i haven't seen a break interest that yet -- and had they come to the floor and been confirmed, there likely would have been a scandal early in the trump, agency, and in the homeland security department. i think we saved president trump from himself and the damage that his nominees could do. so we don't smect aprex for thanks from the white house on this, but i do think that this is an issue that should be taken care of before they head two of the most important and largest -- if not largest, two of the most important federal agencies. mr. president, i yield back my time -- yield back my time.
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the presiding officer: the senator rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise to discuss why i tend to oppose the nomination of rex tillerson as the secretary of of state. this is not a decision that i make lightly. i have no doubt that mr. tillerson has been a successful businessman, managed one of america's largest corporations at exxonmobil. many have attested to his being a man of character, who has given back to his community, particularly through his work with the boy scouts of america. and i have no reason to doubt that he does not have the character and the decency that we would applaud in any person. however, now when the united states faces some of the most complex global challenges in a generation, this is not the time to appoint as our nation's top diplomat someone who has not articulated and demonstrated the
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experience of advocating for america's interests and values and a commitment to our allies and partners. as the events of the past week make clear, we need a secretary of state who will speak up and candidly tell the truth to the president when he acts contrary to who we are as a nation and harms our relations with our partners on the one hand -- and our stands in the world. without an effective world at the state department for america's best interests, both within the executive branch and outside our borders, we will continue to see this administration, i fear, take steps that undermine cooperation with our closest allies and neighbors, violate our values, and ultimately make our troops and citizens less safe. and i'm concerned that mr. tillerson will not be such a voice for the american people throughout the confirmation process, mr. tillerson has repeatedly democrat strategied his -- either his lack of preparation or his unwillingness
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or, again, perhaps "unwillingness" is the right term to specifically declare himself on key issues. in particular, i'm concerned about his views on russia, climate change, immigration, and how he will influence a white house that already seems determined to pursue campaign promises regardless of the impact on american foreign policy. on russia, mr. tillerson has demonstrated a familiarity with putin and the russian government that is deeply concerning. mr. tillerson has spnts his professional life -- has spent his professional life advantaging the interests of exxonmobil, almost to the exclusivity of any other purpose. that is of concern, i think, and should be of concern to all of us. and even as the united states is reevaluating its relationship with russia in recent years, mr. tillerson has deepened his personal relationship with putin to the point that the russian president awarded mr. tillerson the russian order of friendship of 2013, supposedly a very high
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honor for a non-russian. it appears that mr. tillerson opposed u.s. sanctions against russia, after russia's illegal annexation of crimea in 2014. because his multinational corporation stood to lose very lucrative oil contracts if those sanctions were put in place. international sanctions against russia imposed by the united states and european union sent a message to russia that their invasion of the ukraine is unacceptable. these sanctions are absolutely critical to multilateral efforts to hold russia to its commitment to end the violence in the ukraine and restore its sovereignty consistent with the minks agreements. the russians claims these are separatists, ukrainians who are rising up, but the truth is this is russian spy, russian directed and at the behest of putin. mr. tillerson's wavering on
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russian shainchtion could -- sanctions could encourage putin to cut a deal for relief, cause baltics to question efforts in the united states and nato to security and this all collectively would make us less safe. on climate change mr. tillerson's career to this point has been marked by a disregard for the environment. strong environment policies including coordinated global efforts to address climate change are in the best interest of the american and help to fulfill our moral responsibilities as stewards of the earth for the next generation. that's why i've consistently supported limits on oil and gas exploration, bans on drilling in pristine areas, eliminating oil and gas tax subsidies and give-aways and research into new sustainable energy technologies and the negotiation into international climate treaties. mr. tillerson's time at exxonmobil stands in stark
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contrast to these policy goals and makes me doubt now whether, if approved, he would effectively protect our environment, work with our partners around the world to uphold our commitments as secretary of state. on immigration, i am concerned about whether mr. tillerson can be an effective advocate for policies that keep the american people safe while preserving our ties with key partners in upholding our values internationally. president trump's executive order blocking immigrants from certain muslim-majority nations is, in my view, unconstitutional, un-american, cruel to those fleeing danger and injustice and ultimately makes us less secure. it ignores the horrific circumstances of refugees fleeing in numerous war-torn regions. it suggests the ethnic considerations and fails to account for the strict vetting procedures already in place for refugees particularly from syria and areas of conflict.
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it's also contrary to our history as a nation that from its birth has benefited from the contributions of hardworking and successful immigrants. in particular this executive order is a betrayal of our commitment to those who have risked their lives and families to serve as translators for our troops fighting in iraq. through a special immigrant visa program we promised them the opportunity to resettle in the united states in recognition of invaluable contribution to wartime missions yet this administration has blocked these program recipients without a second thought. in addition, the president's actions on immigration are making america less safe by undermining key relationships with allies and partners. the president's executive order on immigration hands isis a self-inflicted propaganda victory that reinforces their claim that the united states is at war with all of islam. it damages our diplomatic
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relations with muslim-majority nations whether on the list or not but undermining their willingness and ability to cooperate with u.s. law enforcement and intelligence agencies in sharing information of potential terrorist attacks. it may also compel these countries to reciprocate by prohibiting americans from entering their borders. just this morning in the armed sstleses committee we heard from an eminent expert, and she indicated to us that the iraqi parliament has already had a meeting and has essentially resolved to reciprocate by banning americans from iraq. we have examples today of iraqi pilots training in the united states so that they can go back and work with our military personnel to attack isis. had their training been scheduled -- a senator: mr. president, would the senator yield for a question? mr. reed: yes, i would. a senator: it's my understanding that not only are we fighting
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shoulder to shoulder with the iraqis against isil but on the day these orders were signed we had iraqi pilots in the united states of america training to bomb isis. mrs. mccaskill: and if they had come days after the signing of this order instead of days before, they would not have been allowed to enter the country for this important training. is that correct? mr. reed: the senator from missouri is absolutely correct. that was the point i was going to make, and she made it more succinctly and more decisive than i did. i thank you. mrs. mccaskill: sorry. i heard you talking about the iraqis. i want to make sure that everyone in america understood they were here training with our military to fight isis, and the president of the united states told them they were no longer welcome. mr. reed: this is something that has been ongoing for many years. i can recall visiting a training facility in rhode island, quantum point naval air station. now it's a national guard station, where they were training iraqi air force pilots
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to fly c-130-j aircraft. had this order been in effect those pilots would not have been allowed in for the training that not only helps them, but helps the thousands of american military personnel in iraq shoulder to shoulder fighting together, depending upon not just the presence but the confidence of the iraqi military in the united states, and that reciprocal mutual relationship, and this measure sends a terrible signal to them, saying you know, go ahead and fight but you won't get to the united states. and it's particularly the case i make with respect to these people who feel threatened because they've helped us. we have a special visa program, but for right now that is in limbo because we've essentially said you can't come in even though you've risked your life to protect our interests and the interest of their own country.
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so we are creating huge problems. and, again, i haven't heard a nominee speak out decisively and clearly about the problems that this policy is engendering, and that is something i think incumbent upon the individual. mr. president, we have traditionally granted nominees broad deference respecting the president. and i don't think this is an issue of just simply stopping a nominee for the sake of stopping a nominee. but we're not a rubber stamp either. we have to come here and make the case. and when we see examples of behaviors that demonstrably threaten security of the united states, our ability to cooperate, our image in the world, and we are not confident
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that our secretary of state will not only reject those, but effectively argue within and without that we have a higher purpose, a better goal, a better policy, then it's our obligation, i think, to stand and to render a vote of "no." and i intend to do that. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? mrs. mccaskill: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mrs. mccaskill: i'm going to just briefly make a couple of comments and then yield my hour postcloture debate, but let me briefly just say that nothing that the president did made us safer. and one of the most outrageous claims that the president made was that we don't have extreme vetting. the president and i both serve on the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, and after we realized that we
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needed to take a close look at refugees and making sure that bad guys weren't getting into this country, we instituted an amazing array of vetting processes. let me first start with this important principle. nobody applies to the united states for refugee status. they apply to the united nations. less than 1% of the people who apply for refugee status to the united nations are granted the opportunity to go forward. so we start out with 99%-plus of the people who apply to be a refugee turned down at the u.n. the less than 1% who come to us, come to us for another aggressive screening process mplets i went to jordan and it. multiple introduce. it takes 18 months to two years. they are vetted through every possible intelligence agency, every possible data base. by the way, we check what
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they're saying even if they don't have papers. iris scans. it is the most extreme vet you can imagine. and of course because it was so extreme, we realized that the holes in our system were not the refugees. that it was in fact the visa waiver program, which is why we passed a law after paris to make sure that anybody who was in certain countries had to get a visa. obama didn't do a travel ban. obama never identified countries for a travel ban. all president obama did was say if you have been in these countries, you've got to have a visa. so we have information on you. so i wanted to clarify that because the misinformation that's coming out of the white house about what we currently have and what is in place is an insult. i wish they understood the vetting processes we had in place now for refugees, then maybe we would get back to really joining arms and trying to figure out what we can do for national security. and i know one thing we need to do for national security is not
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give our back of our hand to the pilots and the other soldiers that are fighting shoulder to shoulder with us in iraq against isis. i yield the remaining hour of my postcloture debate time under rule 22 to senator schumer. the presiding officer: the senator has that right. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mrs. ernst: i rise on the one year anniversary of a fellow iowa sarah root. on january 31, 2016, the very same day as her college graduation, sarah was killed by an illegal immigrant named edwin mejia who was allegedly drag racing with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. sadly, despite requests by
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local law enforcement, i.c.e. failed to detain mejia. he then posted bond, was released, and now a year later remains a fugitive, denying sarah's loved ones any sense of closure or justice. as a mother and grandmother, i cannot fathom the grief that her family and friends continue to feel after such a devastating loss. just 21 years old, sarah was bright, gifted, full of life and ready to take on the world. having just graduated from bellevue university with a 4.0 grade point average, she was dedicated to her community and wanted to pursue a career in criminal justice. sarah had a remarkably bright
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future ahead of her, but her opportunity to make a mark on the world was tragically cut short one year ago today. yet even in death, she touched the lives of others, saving six different individuals through organ donation. although nothing can bring sarah back to her family, we can ensure that i.c.e. never makes that same mistake again. i was encouraged to see the trump administration take action toward addressing this issue last week by implementing parts of sarah's law, legislation i introduced with my iowa and nebraska colleagues in honor of sarah. i remain committed to continuing the work with my colleagues to fulfill the promise i made to sarah's loving parents that i will do everything i can to
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ensure no other parents have to go through what the root family have faced. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from california is recognized. a senator: i yield my hour of postcloture debate under rule 22 to senator cardin. the presiding officer: the senator has that right. ms. harris: thank you. a senator: i yield my hour of postcloture debate under rule 22 to senator cardin. the presiding officer: the senator has that right. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ?an ?an i yield my hour -- mrs. hassan::i yield my hour of postcloture debate time to
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senator schumer. the presiding officer: the senator has that right. ms. hassan:and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i rise today as the senate begins on the nomination of mr. rex tillerson to serve as the 69th secretary of state of the united states of america. i thank mr. tillerson for his willingness to serve our nation and for his participation in a lengthy, wide-ranging hearing before the senate foreign relations committee, where i
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have the honor of being the senior democrat, the rankin rang democrat on the committee. earlier today thanked chairman corker for the courtesies that he showed during the hearing process. howrve, as i you -- however, as i stated yesterday, i remain concerned that mr. tillerson demonstrated business orientation in his responses to questions during the confirmation hearing would prevent him from being a secretary of state who forcefully promotes the values and ideals that have defined our country and our leading role in the world for more than 200 years. i, therefore, will not be supporting his nomination. given the events over the weekend, i believe it's important that i begin today's debate by painting a picture for the american people of the unstable, reckless foreign policy that mr. tillerson is going to be asked to carry out under president trump. it's painfully obvious that when the president says "america first" the cumulative result of
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his vision would actually lead to america alone and america at risk. from time to time in our nation's history, we've heard the calls of isolationism, but isolationism didn't work then, and it won't work now. it is an approach that our history has taught us time and time again undermines our interests, makes us vulnerable to those who wish us harm, betrays our values, and leaves us less secure and less prosperous. america's leadership rooted in our values makes the world a better place for all. but the first ten days of the trump administration shows that the president is intent on compromising our values, abandoning our allies, and using a sledgehammer instead of a scaap l to conduct -- a scalel to conduct.
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my own chairman has said on numerous occasions that he wishes the president had more flushed ideas. what the american people have witnessed in the last ten days goes beyond inexperience. there is a willingful, dangerous campaign under way by forces in this administration to bend or potentially even break the law. more than ever, we need to reaif i recall and adhere to the values that make our country so strong and so stable. the city on the hill that others look to for leadership. but in order to do that, we need leaders who won't shy away from our values, who are -- who sound a certain trumpet for rule of rights, and bedrock american values. mr. tillerson's timid equivocation throughout his confirmation process, his trumpets uncertain sound was alarming because he willing working for a president clearly
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willing to compromise america's values at every turn. there are many individuals who have served in both republican and democratic administrations that recognize this executive order for what it is. mr. president, i have in my hand a letter from over 100 former cabinet secretaries, senior government officials, diplomats, military service members, and intelligence community professionals who have served in the bush and obama administrations. the letter to the heads of the department of homeland security, justice, state expresses state concern that the executive order issued over the weekend jeopardizes tens of thousands of lives, has cause add crisis here in america and will do long-term damage to our national security. it strongly recommends the president rescind this order. mr. president, i ask consent that this letter be entered into the "congressional record." the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. tillerson needs to answer whether he supports mr. trump's decision this weekend to ban muslims, to keep green cardholders out of the country and his view on the chaos that ensued from the terrible implementation of this terrible policy. we asked mr. tillerson during the confirmation hearing whether he supported a muslim ban. he wouldn't give us a clear answer, and he didn't speak out against an unconstitutional muslim ban. just today i have sent a letter as the ranking democrat on the senate foreign relations committee to mr. tillerson asking his specific views on the president's executive order. what impact that will have on america's credibility, what impact will that have on america's ability to work with our strategic partners around the world, and i urge -- i hope that he will respond to us so that we know his views on the president's executive order before we're called upon to vote
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on his nomination. mr. president, i would ask consent that a copy of that letter be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: it remains to be seen whether mr. tillerson has the moral compass necessary to counsel the president towards a coherent u.s. foreign policy that advances our national security and embraces our values and ideals or if he will be another "yes" man, enabling the risky, chaotic whims of a demagogue president who is leading us on a march of follow chism the american people deserve to know because if the last ten days are any indication, the trump administration is on a track to be the most dangerous and divisive in history. and nothing so painfully illustrates that point as friday's executive order banning refugees and certain muslim immigrants from entering the united states. as a citizen of this great nation, i am deeply offended by and ashamed of the president's executive actions. when the news of it broke --
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developed over the weekend, i happened to be attending a family wedding in the miami area, a city rich in its immigrant character and its welcoming nature to people of many faiths and backgrounds. miami was also the city where one of the most shameful episodes in our history transpired when in 1939 the st. louis filled with jewish refugees trying to flee the horrors of nazi germany waited for disas, seeing the lights ashore seeking refuge. shamefully we turned the st. louis away and condemned many of its passengers to death in the holocaust. wree say "never -- we say "never again." yet fear was evident in miami and across the country in weekend. i've heard from constituents who were temporarily detained and arrested or whose loved ones had scheduled travel to the united states and were unsure if they should board their planes.
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i am aware of students studying legally here in the united states who suddenly found their entire future in jeopardy because of their nationality. maryland is proud to host world-class universities like johns hopkins and the university of maryland, colleges that are enriched by the contributions and perspectives of foreign descension. permanent legal residents who endure a lengthy process to acquire their green card and make the united states their home were suddenly unsure if they belonged. and i was particularly troubled when two iraqi citizens who had played critical roles in supporting america's forces in iraq and were traveling on valid visas were denyinged entry into new york. what do they get for helping our brave men and women? a big yo ugly "not welcome" sigt jfk in new york.
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their families were already here in the united states. the cumulative effect of this executive order is enough to make your stomach churn because what president trump tried do is legalize discrimination based on religion and nationality. as president trump said, giving preference to christians, it's going to be okay. and as trump advisor rudolph giuliani said, this is a way to legalize a muslim ban. so i was leaved when federal judge donnelly issue add stay on saturday evening to stop the madness -- at least temporarily. other judges around the nation acted accordingly as well, affirming certain rights of green cardholders and legal permanent residents but too many innocent people remain in limbo. my staff communications with cabinet agencies over the weekend was extremely troubling. the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing in the trump administration, and they
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have avenue inflamed the -- and they've inflamed the fierce of americans. the white housevealed how little they knew or cared. it was clear that secretary kelly did not have more information. the department of homeland security n.a.s. now belatedly begun to issue guidance but i fear the damage has been done. clearly the department of justice was not part of developing the executive order, as acting attorney general sally yates said boldly that she was not convinced that the executive order was lawful. as a result, president trump fired her -- the montanaly night mass kemplet our voice must be loud and clear. mr. trump, this is our country, a country that stands for the highest principles supported by the rule of law. if mrs. yates' firing is any
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indication as to how president trump will handle different views, our democratic institutions of checks and balances will indeed be challenged. the white house press secretary sean spicer said that foreign service officers using the dissent chang toll express their -- channel to express their views on the immigration executive order should -- and i quote -- "either get with the program or they can go." mr. president, the dissent channel was set up during the vietnam war as a way for foreign service officers and civil servants to raise concerns with upper management about the direction of u.s. foreign policy without fear of retribution. it is for -- and i quote -- "consideration of responsible, dissenting and alternative views on subsequent foreign policy issues that cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels or procedures." this process for the use of
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dissent chance was codified in the foreign affairs manual in 1971. which dick indicates that dissent cables are sent -- who distribute them to the secretary of state and other top officials who must respond within 30 to 60 days. there are typically about four or five each year. freedom from reprisal from dissent channel users is strictly enforced. but the president's press secretary says they can go. what type of free discussion do we want to have in this country? where is the checks and balances? where is the willingness to listen to different views? the president also put a four-month freeze in place on all refugees entering the united states, singling out refugees from certain muslim-majority countries for extra screening, failing to acknowledge or speak about the thorough 18- to
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24-month screening process that refugees from dangerous countries such as iraq and syria already endure before they come to our nation. we had the tough -- we have the toughest screening now. i'm not sure what the president is talking about when he says additional screenings. we already have the toughest screening. they already going through the united nations. they're already inte interinterviewed. their background is checked. the number of refugees entering the united states will fall by 50% moving forward. mr. president, it is clear that the president of the united states has a fundamental misunderstanding of america's leading role on refugee resettlement. today i will meet with king abdullah of jordan, a nation that has accepted 650,000 syrian refugees. and president trump is holding our program to accept approximately 10,000 syrian refugees, placing it on hold. jordan is one of america's global partners in fighting extremism.
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it will be interesting to see the reactions we get from our partners. if we close our doors to refugees, we will not only close our doors to u.s. humanitarian values but also severely damage america's global credibility on universal values. the united states is a nation of immigrants and refugees from -- we learn from our mistakes with the st. louis and are the nation that received refugees from the holocaust after the second world war. we are a nation that opened our doors to hundreds of thousands of citizens fleeing conflicts in he will -- in cuba, vietnam and cambodia. the united states must continue to lead by example but president trump's cruel executive order on immigrants and refugees undermines our core values and traditions, threatens our national security and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of our strict vetting process, the most thorough in the world. it's dangerous and shortsighted
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policy that erodes our moral leadership and harms our national security as well as our alliances and partnerships worldwide. this is not the kind of america that america deserves. also over the weekend president trump spoke with russian president vladimir putin. there has been perhaps no other issue that has so pitted president trump against the interest of the united states than russia. the way he reflects to what's happening, the president will not only utter basic truths about mr. putin's russia, such as the annexation of crimea ukraine as legal, whether it's illegal, the committed war crimes in syria, and that they sought to create doubt about abt potentially influencing the election that saw him elected president as our intelligence community has overwhelmingly confirmed. there is no more fundamental interest that we have as americans than our democracy.
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and let's be clear, just as pearl harbor or on september 11, in this past election, the united states was attacked by a foreign power. trump does not even seem to care that we were attacked or, worse, does not seem to believe that we need to stand up and defend our democracy and our form of government. i find that unfathomable. the phone calls this weekend came against the backdrop of president trump and his aides floating the idea of lifting current sanctions on russia. here russia has invaded ukraine, has committed war crimes in syria, has attacked our free democratic system, and we're talking about easing sanctions on russia? it is such a miscartridge of justice and -- miscarriage of accountability that they do not seek to understand what russia has done to our country and
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around the world. i'm pleased to have bipartisan support for my effort to impose additional sanctions on russia as well as require the president to seek congressional approval before he rolls back current sanctions. sanction relief can only come when russia has changed its behavior. i see no indication that will come any time soon. the unclassified reports released by the intelligence community earlier this month says that russia's intelligence tried to access multiple state or local election boards. they also confirmed that russia has researched u.s. electoral procedures and related technology and equipment, though they were clear in their assessment that there was no evidence at this time that russia interfered in the actual vote tabulations. an america that becomes passive or blind to a researchent russia is not the kind of america that the american people deserve and it's imperative that the administration understands this and acts accordingly. what the american people don't
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need, the white house focusing on a trial balloon that floated last week that fell like a lead ball. someone in the administration thought it would be a good idea to bring back the notorious black site, secret prisons from a decade ago, where intelligence services picked up foreign nationals suspected of terrorist connections, hid them and in some cases tortured them or allowed the prison's hosts to torture them. perhaps nothing did more harm to our credibility and boost terrorist recruitment during the early years of the iraq war as the dangerous immoral practices of rendition, secret detention and interrogation by torture. we cannot go back to those practices if we value maintaining the perception and reality of the united states of america as a beacon of justice, law and human rights for the world. make no mistake, this approach like the immigration executive order, endangers americans citizens and personnel abroad and is a boon to isis and
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like-minded groups. it validates their propaganda, adds to their recruitment, in citement of homegrown term in the united states and the west. general mattis gets it. why can't the president? president trump must never let this executive order see the light of day. this is not the kind of america that american people deserve. let me turn now to our relationship with our neighbors, our most important international relationships. since entering the political arena 18 months ago, candidate trump was consistent in thinks treatment of mexican immigrants and refugees, referring to them on day one of his presidential campaign as drug users, criminals or rapists. so, mr. tillerson's job was shaping up to be difficult enough, and it got even harder last week. in the last five days president trump has insulted the mexican president and people with executive orders on border wall construction and the treatment of immigrants and refugees at
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our border as well as stoked fears throughout the sanctuary and welcoming cities throughout the united states that resources could be cut and innocent people could be apprehended. the president's new secretary of the homeland security said pointedly that a wall will not work. and mr. trump missed a real opportunity at the onset of his presidency to advance both comprehensive immigration reform and border security which goes hand in hand. we did that a few years ago. that's what the president should have come in and used his presidency to pass comprehensive immigration reform as we did. but instead he wants to build a wall. a senator: could i ask you to yield just for a second? mr. cardin: i'd be glad to yield. mr. cassidy: i ask unanimous consent that the intelligence committee be allowed to meet during today's session of the senate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection,so ordered. mr. cassidy: thank you, senator cardin. mr. cardin: my pleasure.
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turning away those at the border will do nothing to make america safer. such cruel action will inevitably bring harm and potential death to survivors of violence and torture, including many women and children, while undermining america's values and damaging our relationship with our allies. and why the president would deliberately pick a fight with the president of mexico is truly puzzling. not to be outdone after embarrassed by the president of mexico's cancellation of his visit to washington, the president doubled down and had the audacity to suggest that the cost of constructing a border wall should be passed on to the hardworking american families, not once but twice. first by inserting it in the budget. that's taxpayer dollars. pay to build a wall that won't work. and second, through a tax on mexican imports which will be paid for by american consumers. all the while he continues to build smoke and say we will
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still find a way to have mexico ultimately pay for this dream wall. it won't happen. this is not the kind of america that the american people deserve. lastly, mr. president, i want to point out that this is the third day -- this is his third day in office, one day after the 44th anniversary of the landmark roe v. wade supreme court decision, president trump reinstated the controversial global gag rule of law that would cut off u.s. family planning funds to any nonprofit overseas, that provides any information about abortion in their health care services for women and families in need. this is not about u.s. money supporting abortion services. it's about working for organizations. republican presidents routinely reinstate this harmful rule, but president trump's global gag order is even more extreme. it massively expands this already harmful policy to threaten all u.s. foreign aid assistance to nonprofit groups engaged in health and
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development work. that will significantly increase the jeopardy of cutting off u.s. funding to international health efforts. we're talking about millions of more women and families. without funding these organizations, we will not be able to provide h.i.v. prevention, care and treatment services to those in need, provide integrated maternal health care with contraceptive services or counsel women on the potential risks of zika infection, among many other activities. this is very counterproductive to u.s. goals and interests. this is not the kind of america the american people deserve. the american people deserve leadership that will make them more safe and more secure, that will increase our prosperity and that will advance our values and serve as an example to the world. and that america, mr. president, is also an america that can lead the world and that the world will want to work with. mr. president, the state of world affairs has been
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precarious for some time now. almost single handedly president trump is inflaming previously simmering situations while creating new problems where they previously did not exist. world leaders are chastising us. innocent people are looking at us in fear. and terrorists are gearing up to use trump's hate mongering in their recruitment anti-american propaganda. we will be less safe, not more safe. he will be putting americans at risk here at home and those traveling abroad. as we debate mr. tillerson's nomination we cannot lose sight of the fact that he will be carrying out the foreign policy of the most dangerous and thin-skinned president we have seen on foreign policy issues and other issues. is he up to the job? well, he'll be a voice of reason and stability when time calls for reason and stability? will he resist the forces of war that so easily call out rather than engage and harm the necessary work of diplomacy and
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negotiations? mr. president, these are critical questions which must be asked and seek answers to as we debate and vote on the most important official in the president's cabinet. it is clear to me that unfortunately mr. tillerson will not be that voice of stability, reason and diplomatic experience that the united states so desperately needs at this time of uncertainty and instability. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. cassidy: mr. president, as we all know in our country, the big debate is how do we repeal and replace obamacare? i'm pretty clear the american people want something done. they voted ever since the bill was passed for those who opposed obamacare and desire to both repeal and replace culminating in the election of president trump. now i and susan collins as well as others have introduced something called the patient freedom act. it is our attempt to replace obamacare. but what i want to emphasize
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here is the bill's emphasis upon federalism. the key feature is that we take power from washington, d.c. and give it back to patients and back to state capitals. we think that we find plenty of examples where washington has done that, allowing states to be the laboratories of democracy, it's worked out well for all. first, let's look at the parameters that president trump has laid out. president trump says he wants to repeal the affordable care act, but replace it with something which covers everyone, takes care of preexisting conditions, does not have mandates and lowers costs. those are marching orders as far as i'm concerned. and with the patient freedom act, we attempt to achieve president trump's goals. now, how do we do that? under our bill, congress would pass legislation this year which next year would give states one of three options. the patient freedom act has something we call a better
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choice. that would be one option the state could choose. but really a state would give them the choice to say nothing. we don't want anything from the federal government. get out of here. that's one option the state has. and the last option the state has is to stay with the status quo, the affordable care act. we've actually gotten a little bit of criticism for that from conservatives. and i'm saying why? this is federalism. if a state wants to -- we're going to repeal the obamacare taxes and penalties, we're repealing that. but if a state in a state capital wants to reinstitute taxes and penalties upon the people and its state upon the businesses in that state, god bless them. i think it's a mistake, but they should have their choice. in fact, they have that choice now. all we are saying is you can exercise the right which you currently possess. the states would choose in 2018.
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they would implement their choice in 2019. and by 2020, obamacare would be repealed and replaced. and that is our goal. repeal and replace. while achieving president trump's goals of insuring all, taking care of those with preexisting conditions without mandates and at a lower cost. now, by the way, let's talk a little bit about the federalism. we have always thought the tenth amendment which grants the states everyone responsibility responsibility -- every responsibility not delegated to the federal government is an important consideration. and that's what we are embracing here. allow the state to choose. there are some states in which the affordable care act, i am told, is working well. the folks in california and new york, they swear by it. it is not working in louisiana. a friend of mine got his quote for the renewal of he and his
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wife's policy. they are 60 and 61 or thereabouts. $39,000 a year. $39,000 a year for the renewal of a policy. i put it on the facebook page with their -p names darken -- their names darkened out, but it was $39,000 a year. that is the unaffordable care act. if you look around the country, you can see states, for example in arizona, no insurance company was there, and when one came in, it raised the rates 116% in one year. it more than doubled in one year, on top of increases in all the previous years. now, if california and new york say the affordable care act is
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working for them, keep it. it is not working for arizona, it is not working for louisiana, it is not working for other states in the union. why not take power from our nation's capital and give it to the state capital and allow the state capital to come up with a solution which works for that state? by the way, i read an editorial today and it said -- it was out of georgia -- and it pointed to the welfare reform act in which a republican congress and president clinton devolved to the states many of the reforms necessary for welfare. it's been considered a tremendous legislative success. they used that example as an endorsement of the approach of federalism we're taking now. now, mr. president, it isn't just that we give power back to states, we also give power back to patients. we threplt choose the benefit
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benefits -- let them choose the benefits they choose to have, such as price transparency, so someone knows how much a test costs before they have it performed as opposed to a huge bill six months later and we give tpour to patients. -- power to patients. mr. president, we hope all those who wish to see president trump's mandate fulfilled to cover everyone, take care of those with preexisting conditions, lower costs without mandates, in the process repealing and replacing obamacare that they will endorse the federalism of the patient free docket -- freedom act as well as his *r other provisions -- his other provisions. thank you, mr. president. i yield back. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. thune: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, every year around this time, house and senate republicans get together for a joint conference to share ideas and develop our action plan for the year. last week we gathered in philadelphia for this year's conference and we had a really productive session. all of us came back energized and ready to achieve big things
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for the american people. mr. president, in november american people elected republican majorities in the house and senate and a republican president. that was a tremendous show of trust and republicans know it. we're committed to living up to that trust by delivering on the promises that we made. the last few years have been tough for american workers. job creation has been sluggish, wages have been stagnant, economic growth has lagged far behind the pace of other recoveries, and opportunities for workers have been few and far between. it is no surprise that so many hard-working americans feel like they have been left behind. to the millions of american workers discouraged by the past eight years, i want to say this we hear you. republicans hear you and we're going to act. republicans have outlined an agenda focused on growing our
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economy, creating jobs, increasing wages, and lifting burdens that the obama administration placed on the american people. one big issue that we will tackle this year is repealing and replacing obamacare. seven years ago obamacare was sold to the american people with a lot of promises. the law was going to reduce premiums for families. it was going to fix problems with our health care system without hurting anyone who was happy with their health coverage. if you like your health plan, you'll be able to keep it people were told. if you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor people were told. well, mr. president, as everyone knows, every one of these -p promises were -- these promises were broken. premiums for families continued to rise, millions of families lost the coverage that they liked. americans regularly discovered that they couldn't keep their doctors and their choice of replacement was often limited. mr. president, these broken promises were just the tip of
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the iceberg. the law hasn't just failed to live up to its promises. it's actively collapsing and the status quo is unsustainable. premiums on the exchanges are soaring. deductibles regularly run into the thousands of dollars. in fact, for 2017, the average dribble for a bronze-level obamacare plan is rising from $5,731 to $6,092 -- $6,092, mr. president. with deductibles like that it is no wonder that some americans can't afford to use their obamacare insurance. the -- this not limited to soaring costs. health care o*s choices -- choices are dwindling. one-third of american counties have just one choice of health
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insurer on their exchange -- one-third of american counties, mr. president, have one option -- one option. tell me that's not a monopoly. this is not the health care reform that the american people were looking for. republicans are committed to replacing obamacare with real health care reform that focuses on personalized patient-centered care. one massive problem with obamacare is the fact that it puts washington in charge of health care decisions that should be made at a much lower level. any obamacare reform that republicans pass will folk kwhrus on fixing this -- focus on fixing this. health care issues don't have one-size-fits-all solutions. it's time to stop acting like they do. states should have the power to innovate and embrace health care insurance that works for their employers and their state.
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individuals should be able to make health care decisions in consultation with their doctors, not with washington, d.c. another thing we are going to focus on is breaking down the obamacare barriers that artificially restricted choice. as i said earlier obamacare defaulted to a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to health care. that means that many americans have found themselves paying for health care that they don't need and don't want. we need much more flexibility in insurance plans. the thriving health care system would offer a wide variety of choices that would allow americans to pick a plan tailored to their needs. we could would give americans the ability to better manage their health care. any health plan needs to make sure that employers have the tools they need to give employees affordable health coverage. another issue is regulatory reform. while some government regulationregulationsregulation,
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every administration have to remember that regulations are have consequences. the more resources individuals and businesses spend complying with regulations the less time they have to spend on focusing on innovation that drives the economy. unfortunately the obamacare lo loaded employers with burdensome regulations. according to the american action forum, the obama administration was responsible for administering 675 major regulations that cost the economy more than $800 billion. now, given those numbs it's no surprise -- numbers that there were few resources left to dedicate to grow and create jobs. repealing burdensome regulations is one of the most important things that we can do to get our economy healthy again, and that, mr. president, is going to be a
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republican priority. mr. president, another big thing we can do to make america competitive again is to reform our outdated tax code, and that will also be a republican priority this year. right now the congressional budget office is projecting that our economy will grow by an average of just 2% over the next 10 years. if we can increase that growth by just 1%, we would see average incomes rise by $4,200. get the growth rate to 3% and average incomes go up by $4,200, we would see an additional 1.2 million jobs created in our economy and we would see much faster increases in the standard of living. so many younger americans today are finding that they are not able to enjoy the same standard of living that was enjoyed by
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their parents because of a sluggish economy that is growing in that 12% to 2% -- 1% to 2% range. one of the ways to achieve that kind of growth, to get back to 3% to 4% growth in our economy is to reform the current tax code. the current tax code is costly, it is complex, and it is frequently unfair. some corporations benefit from rules and credits while others pay the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. more and more companies are focused overseas because the tax situation is better abroad, and that means that american jobs are going overseas with them. instead of pushing employees out of the country, we should bring our nation's tax rates in line with those of other countries to keep more jobs here in the united states. and we should make our whole tax code flatter, fairer, and less complex.
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our tax code should work for all taxpayers, not just the privileged few. a simpler, fairer tax code will make us more competitive in the global economy and help businesses create more good-paying jobs for american workers. it will judgment start our economy -- jump start our economy. finally, mr. president, republicans in the senate have another important trust to uphold this year and that is confirming a new supreme court justice. we're committed to having a new supreme court nominee and a proper understanding of the role of the court in our country. supreme court justices are umpires. they call balls and strikes. they don't write the rules of the game and the job of the supreme court justice is to interpret the law and the constitution, not korea write the law based -- not rewrite the law. democrats have talked about the
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need for nine justices on the supreme court. republicans trust that they will follow through on their statements by working with us to confirm the president's nominee. mr. president, to every american who voted for the change in november, to every american frustrated with a sluggish economy and a lack of opportunity, i want to say, again, we hear you. republicans hear you and we're not going to let you down. we will spend the 115th congress fighting for your priorities and we will not rest until every american has access to a future of security, hope, and opportunity. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, what is the issue before the senate? the presiding officer: the tillerson nomination. mr. durbin: thank you, mr.
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president. rex tillerson of exxonmobile has been nominated to be our secretary of state. we're going through a procedural 30 hours of debate over that move -- over moving to that issue, and as you can tell, many speeches are being given on the floor on a lot of different topics, but the underlying order of business is the next secretary of state for the united states of america. his nomination comes to us at a particularly challenging time. we live in a dangerous world. we know that we learned it on 9/11 and we learn it every day when men and women in uniform are risking and sometimes sacrificing their lives for this great nation. we also live in a complicated moment in time with the changeover in presidency and clearly a changeover in foreign policy. and we note in the first 12 days, the first 12 days of the trump presidency how many serious foreign policy issues have arisen, some by creation of the new president of the united
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states. it's customary, it's traditional for the president of the united states to make one of his first major visits to mexico or mexico to the united states. the reason, of course, is they're our third largest trading partner and in so many different areas we work together closely with mexico. we certainly work together with them on issues of security, issues of terrorism and narcotics and trade issues that go on on a daily basis. unfortunately this new president trump is off to a rocky start with the president of mexico to the point where the president of most company canceled when its visit to the united states. strong statements were made by president trump about building a wall and the mexicans will pay for it. how many times did you hear that and over and over again the mexican government has said we'll never pay for it. so that standoff over a campaign threat or promise is at this
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moment inhibiting a relationship which traditionally has been strong for generations. secondly, since he'd been elected president of the united states, president trump has said that nato is obsolete. well, nato is the alliance created after world war ii to protect europe against aggression from outside, particularly from the soviet union. since the fall of the soviet union, nato has expanded to include many other countries, the battics, for example, and poland. as a result these countries have become dependent on nato for their security. the theory behind nato is very basic. if one of our nato allies is attacked, we will all defend. and so you can understand a small country like lithuania, even poll lad, -- poland realizing they're vulnerable to russian attack count on nato. when the president of the united states says that nato is obsolete, people living in those
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countries wonder what about tomorrow? what happens tomorrow if vladimir putin who has been guilty of aggression in georgia as well as ukraine decides to pick a baltic country next. so the uncertainty created by president trump's statement on nato is one that haunts us to this moment, but the one that really is overwhelming in the last few days was president trump's executive order when it came to refugees and immigration. the story of refugees in the united states does not have a good start. going back to world war ii when a man named breckenridge long was in charge of immigration into the united states during that war. he worked in the administration of franklin roosevelt. sadly, his view on refugees was harsh and as a result, the united states was caught up many times denying access to the site of the united states to people who were vulnerable to persecution and genocide. the most noteworthy example was
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the s.s. st. louis in 1939 which brought 900 people from nazi germany to the united states to escape the holocaust. they were turned away. they were forced back into europe but hundreds died as a result of it. that was the policy of the day when robert wagner the senator of new york asked that we allow 10,000, 10,000 german children to come into the united states to escape the holocaust, that measure was defeated in committee in the united states senate. children coming to the united states. after world war ii and we saw six million jews killed in the holocaust and so many others whose lives were compromised and lost, we decided to change the u.s. approach when it came to refugees. instead of pushing back against them, we began to embrace them. and you know what's happened since? we developed a reputation around the world as the safe place to be, the country that cared.
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ask over 600,000 cubans who came to the u.s. shores to escape castro's regime. remember, at that time castro had lied with the soviet union, our mortal enemy in the cold war and yet without vetting, without extreme vetting, we said to these cubans, you're welcome to be safe in the united states, and they came in the thousands. are they an important part of america? you bet they are. and there are three cuban american united states senators to prove it. now today a question has been raised by the trump regime as to what our view is going to be toward refugees in the future. thank goodness we didn't raise it with cuba. nor did we raise it when jews and the soviet union were facing persecution. they asked for a chance to come to the united states. synagogues and communities across the united states opened their arms and gave them a chance at over -- and over a hundred thousand came to our shores. we're better for it. we really have demonstrated that
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our ideals and values as a nation apply to those who came to our shores. the list goes on and on from yugoslavia, vietnam, somalian, many other places where the innocence has shown that we're a caring -- the united states has shown that we're a caring nation. now this new president says we're america first. we're going to define this policy. this definition of america around the world is something that many of us believe is just plain wrong. these executive orders were issued by president trump without consultation with even his own cabinet members who had been appointed. those in the area of national security, for example, weren't consulted before these executive orders went into effect. when i talked to the department of homeland security, customs and border protection, it turns out they were given instructions at the last minute as to how to treat passengers coming into international terminals over the weekend. i know what happened at o'hare. over 130 people were stopped and detained and questioned and some were never allowed to board planes in other countries, some
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were returned to those countries. it was chaotic. it didn't show basic competency in running a government, and it was fundamentally unfair. let me tell you, it wasn't just a matter of an uncomfortable situation. it wasn't just a matter of people being inconvenienced. one of our priorities when it comes to refugees, even from those seven countries that president trump noted were those who were in desperate medical conditions. and so when the president says, i just wanted a pause for these seven countries, let me ask you what you think that pause means to that 9-year-old somalia child in an eet yoap ya -- ethiopia camp with a heart disease that can't be treated in that camp and was finally going to get the care in the united states. that pause by trum could be dead -- president trump could be deadly. a a boy with a severe intestinal disorder living in a camp that
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doesn't have medical facilities. a pause. we'll get it together. we'll get back to you later. that's the kind of human condition is being affected by these orders issued by our new president. is it any wonder that so many people around the world have reacted? first they should react when it comes to our security. do you know how many terrorists refugees have come from these seven countries on the list? none, not one, not one syrian refugee has engaged in terrorist activities in the united states. if you watch "60 minutes" over the weekend, you'll understand why. this is not an easy ask. you just don't hold up your hand and say i'm ready, i'm ready to go to the united states. you first submit your name to the u.n. commission on refugees and then we call the list to find -- cull the list to find the ones we might consider in the united states. that's about 1%. then we put them through a
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vetting process that can go on for two years, two years of being interrogated, investigat investigated, examined, watched, challenged, and finally, finally after those years they may have a chance to come to the united states. so now we're going to move to extreme vetting. what is that going to be? trial by fire? what's left? we are doing the very best. the fact that there's not been one refugee from any of these countries engaged in terrorism is an indication that we have a good process that's stronger than any nation on earth, and yet the president has said we're going to stop these refugees indefinitely from coming from syria for months and from these six other countries. then he made a statement to a christian broadcasting show that he was on that really went far over the line. during the course of the campaign he said repeatedly this will be a muslim ban. then he said, well, they told me to stop saying muslim ban.
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so he stopped for a while. turns out rudy giuliani, the former mayor of new york said, he called me in and said how do i put together something legal that's a muslim ban. i think mayor giuliani may have been speaking out of school but it was an indication of what was really going on with the trump campaign and administration. well, on this christian broadcasting show, the president was explicit, that he would give priority to christians because he believed they were being persecuted in these countries. that flies in the face of some fundamentals in this country, the fundamentals of our constitution because we have said when it comes to religion, this government shall not favor any religion, and here we have the president of the united states on a television show saying the opposite. it's being challenged in court, at least to some extent it's been slowed down by restraining orders issued by federal courts and judges around this country. last night the acting attorney general sally yates said in good
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conscience she could not defend president trump's decisions in these executive orders. for that act of courage, she was fired. i'm sure she expected it. but i want to say for a woman who has given her life, 20 years of it at least as a prosecutor and had an exemplary career at the department of justice, my hat goes off to her. i think she did what she thought was right and faced the consequences. history will prove her right and this decision by the administration wrong. and so now we have rex tillerson who wants to be secretary of state of the united states of america. how would you like to take over that job tomorrow in light of what i've just mentioned to you. the executive orders issued by the president without consultation with the president of state, judging nato to be obsolete in his twitter, and then having a relationship with mexico where the president is canceling trips to the united states, not to mention other things said about china and other countries. it's an awesome challenge and it's a challenge which we have
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to ask whether mr. tillerson is prepared for. he's had 40 years of success with exxonmobil starting as a production engineer, going to the top of the company. and now the question is, is he ready to give up his loyalty to a company and to have a loyalty to a country, even if the decisions he has to make as secretary of state may be inconsistent with the best policy for that company. i'm going to yield the floor. iee my colleague is here from the state of wyoming. i believe this is going to be ongoing. at this point, mr. president, i yield. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. a senator: i would like to congratulate the president of the senate for his ascension to the chair of the indian affairs committee in the united states senate. mr. barrasso: it is a committee with great history of bipartisan efforts working together. it's a committee i was privileged on which to serve, still serve and have been a chairman in the past. i'm looking to the distinguished senator from north dakota taking
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over the mantle of responsibility. i know he will continue to work hard as he has since joining the senate in the efforts on behalf of so many americans. i also come to the floor about what is going on in the senate with regard to confirming nominations on a cabinet that i believe is a truly all-star cabinet, truly an all-star cabinet. i think it gets better as we keep confirming one nominee after another. last week i spoke on the floor about what a great job i believe scott pruitt is going to do as head of the environmental protection agency. today i want to talk about to more examples. owe two more examples. first there's the nomination of our friend and colleague senator jeff sessions from alabama to be attorney general. those of us who have served with senator sessions over the years know that he is a man of uncommon decency, of fairness, and of integrity. we know that his dedication to the law is absolute. in 1999 senator sessions came to
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the floor to speak in support of awarding the congressional gold medal to rosa parks. in that speech he said equal treatment under the law is a fundamental pillar upon which our republic rests. we saw senator sessions' devotion to this idea again and again and again. he introduced legislation to reduce the differences in the kinds of sentences that could be handed out to people convicted of similar drug crimes. he teamed up with senator ted kennedy to pass legislation protecting prisoners from sexual assault behind bars. the job of attorney general, mr. president, is to be america's top law enforcement officer and attorney. jeff sessions has shown himself to be an outstanding attorney. he worked as a front line prosecutor. he spent 12 years, 12 years as the united states attorney for the southern district of alaba alabama. he was attorney general of the
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state of alabama, and he spent 20 years here as a united states senator. if confirmed as attorney general, he will be one of the most qualified people ever to hold this job. these qualifications include an exceptional knowledge of how the justice department works and the priorities of the people who work there. the attorney general oversees the work of more than 100,000 people. most of them are law enforcement working for the fbi and drug enforcement administration. i think these men and women are going to find jeff session is their greatest champion and i think they will greet his arrival at the justice department with a wonderful ovation. national law enforcement groups have already endorsed his nomination and so have groups representing federal and local prosecutors. he will enforce the laws by congress in a fair and impartial
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manner. that is what america needs in an attorney general. the second person i want to talk about today is congressman tom price. tom has been nominated to be the secretary of health and human services. just as jeff sessions has devoted his life to the law, tom price has devoted his life to caring for the health of patients and the american people. dr. price practiced medicine for 20 years. he's the medical director of an orthopedic clinic at grady memorial hospital in atlanta. it is a public safety hospital in atlanta and many of its patients are low income. dr. price saw each and every day the challenges that people faced in america's broken health care system, both the patients and the people who were trying to provide the care. that's why he has taken health
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care reform so seriously as a member of congress. he did so as well in the georgia state legislature. he understands and he understood immediately why so many parts of obamacare simply would not work when they were passed and signed into lawsome six years ago. -- law some six years ago. he knew that the health care law would make things worse for millions of americans, and tom price was proven right. it is time for the department of health and human services to have leadership that understands that patients should not become a political tool. congressman price is actually the first medical doctor to be nominated to head this department of health and human services since 1989. that kind of knowledge and the background that he has is essential for dealing with the challenges that the department faces today. mr. president, the wheels are falling off of america's health care system.
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we need leaders -- leaders who are more than just professional bureaucrats which is what we had. we need someone who understands health care deeply and who cares about putting patients first, not politics. tom price has shown that he can reach across the aisle to get things done. it's what he did in the state legislature in georgia and what's he's done in the house of representatives here in washington. tom worked with democrats to make sure medicare patients could get access to medical equipment like blood sugar monitors and oxygen tanks. he did the same thing when he introduced a bipartisan measure to stop burdensome regulations for patients who needed a new hip or knee joint. as secretary of health and human services he's going to listen -- listen to the best arts of both sides and then he's -- arguments of both sides and then he will do what is right for the health of the american people. obamacare has to go. it has failed missably. we all -- miss arably.
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we all know that. even democrats who wrote the law realize how flaw the law is. it's time for us to focus on what can be done to replace obamacare and make american health care work once again. now, i've seen media reports that democrats want to obstruct the nomination of tom price and jeff sessions. i expect that republicans will -- democrats will grandstand because they have no real objection to either person's qualifications or credentials. democrats complain that they lost the presidential election. welshing the president deserves to have his cabinet in place. that's why republicans didn't object to president obama getting seven of his cabinet members in the -- on the very first day in office in 2009. we are at a point in this point in time that president obama had a significant number of his cabinet, over 20, confirmed in
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2009, and we look at where we are with president trump's cabinet and the obstruction by democrats. it is unfortunate that democrats decided not to follow the example that republicans did. democrats need to get over it and get on with it. attorney general of the united states, secretary of health and human services are big jobs, important jobs, necessary jobs and it is time for the senate to move to confirm both jeff sessions and tom price to the cabinet. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the assistant minority leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, the senator from wymong is my
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friend. we spend time in the gym together. i say regularly i go there for apparently no particular reason, but we are friends. i would like to clarify a couple of things when it comes to congressman price. he has been chosen by president trump to head up the department of health and human services. he has stated as a member of congress from georgia that he believes that we should change the social security system as well as the medicare system and privatize medicare. that is a worrisome suggestion for 50 million or more americans who count on medicare and do not exactly look forward to being placed in the loving arms of an insurance company at some point late in their lives. so there are questions there. but the question at hand was brought to the attention of the american public today, not in some liberal newspaper, but in the wall street.
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it turns out congressman price has been engaged in the purchase of stock that has a direct impact on the medical profession and whether he properly filed disclosures of buying that stock or did something improper is something that needs to be resolved. part of the the reason the nominations for president trump are taking longer than others are because many, like congressman price, have substantial withholdings. we found when there was a cabinet members elected under president obama, it took six months to gather all of the financial information about her and divest her of all potential conflict of interests. it turns out many of these nominees did not have their ethics file filed on time, and in some cases information about them was found to be in conflict with reality. now there is a further
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investigation that is necessary. it is not a matter of spite, it is a matter of due diligence as required by the constitution and required in the u.s. senate. a word about obamacare. my friend from wymong, a medical doctor himself, has felt strongly against the affordable care act since its passaging, and i view it a lot differently. there are currently 1.2 million illinoisans, one out of 10 in our state who have health insurance because of the affordable care act. over half of them are now brought into the medicaid system, the others are on insurance exchanges and many have their premiums subsidized by our federal government. in addition to that, every person in america who has a health insurance plan has been benefited by the obamacare. why? because we have taken health insurance and said you can no longer do that. for example, lifetime caps, caps
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on amount of money that a policy will pay. 100,000 in coverage may sound like a lot until you get cancer. the second most important thing we did was to say you can't discriminate against someone because they have a preexisting condition. is there anyone alive that doesn't have some preexisting condition? if it's bad enough, in the bad old days before the affordable care act, that was enough to either disqualify you from health insurance or run the premiums up to the high heavens. now you can no longer be diskarim made it against -- discriminated against because your husband has diabetes, your wife has survived breast cancer, your child has survived cancer. the third thing we did was said that every health insurance policy sold in the united states has to cover mental illness an substance abuse treatment. people who pushed for that, a
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democrat who sat back there, paul wellstone, and pete domenici, both are a history of mental illness that in their families. mental illness was included in the affordable care act. all of us who buy health insurance are buying care for the mental illness and the substance abuse treatment is important. think about the opioid and ha*eurpb ep -- heroin epidemic. where would these families be with a person in the family who is suffering from an addiction if the health insurance plan didn't provide some coverage? the affordable care act requires that. and when the republicans say we want to repeal it, the obvious question is -- then what? what happens next when the insurance companies can stop covering these critical areas? there's another thing. my wife and i have raised some kids who have gone through college, and when they finished
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college, they didn't quite go into the long permanent career. they had a bunch of jobs looking for the right place. i can recall calling my daughter fresh out of the university of wisconsin and asking, jen, do you have health insurance? she said, dad i'm fine. i'm healthy i don't need. you know what the affordable care act, my daughter, anyone's daughter up to the age of 26 can stay on the family's plan. how about that for common sense. 90,000 people -- young people in illinois are protected because of that plan. now we hear from the republicans that that is a big failure and we have to repeal it. the other thing we did was for the senior citizen. there was something called the doughnut hole. it related to seniors for paying prescription drugs. here is what it said. we will cover you for the first few months of the year with
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medicare paying the prescription drug costs, and then you're on your own for three or four months. once you delved into your personal savings for a couple of months we will help you out. go figure. seniors across the country felt completely vulnerable. when they went into the period of no coverage, many of them stopped taking their drugs. that's not a good thing. we closed that gap. we closed that doughnut hole. what does it mean to seniors in illinois? on average they say $1,000 a year because the affordable care act brought this reform to medicare. now the republicans say, let's repeal that. do you want to explain that to the seniors in my state that they now have to turn to their savings for that gap period again? we don't want to see that happen. republicans have said repeatedly for six years they want to repeal obamacare -- repeal obamacare. they say in their sleep. they had vote after vote. i think 60 different votes in
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the house to repeal it, knowing it would never happen with president obama in the white house. now the dog done caught the bus. here they are in with the majority in the house and senate and the first order of business is repeal obamacare. all across the united states, health care providers, hospitals, clinics and others are telling them that would be a disaster. if you eliminate the affordable care act without a replacement that is as good or better you will leave chaos in the system and a lot of people without the protection of health insurance. you would think after six years the republicans would have a plan for a substitute. they had all of this time to think about it. no, not yet. they are still thinking about it, but they are determined to repeal. i met with hospital administrators around my state last week and i will continue to in the future. they are worried. we estimate that illinois hospitals will lose over 90,000 jobs with the repeal of the
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affordable care act. we know downstate hospitals and many hospitals in rural areas will be forced to close. what happens when you close that small town hospital in downstate illinois? what used to be a 20-minute ride to the hospital becomes a one-hour drive. how important is that? well, when you're in labor it's important or if you just had a farm accident or you're responding to something that happened on the highway, it's critical life or death important. so you would think the republicans would have a plan to keep these hospitals open. they don't. we haven't seen the substitute. so they rail against obamacare, they rail against the affordable care act. they don't criticize the individual components that i described because they are wildly popular with the american people. we spent six years trying to convince people with the affordable care act with its flaws that it was good for america. we have gotten nowhere, we are beating our heads against the wall. when republicans took over and
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talking about repeal, people were stepping back and say when are we going to lose. the affordable care act -- as people come now the value of it for their families and businesses. so i say to my friends on the republican side as i've said over and over again, the affordable care act is not a perfect law. the only perfect law was carried down the side of a mountain by senator mosts on clay tablets. everything else can be improved. i'm ready to sign up for that improvement. but first this whole talk of repeal, it's totally irresponsible. if we want a constructive conversation about how to make the affordable care act more affordable, covering more people, finally doing something about prescription drug costs, let's sit down and do it together on a bipartisan basis, but starting with repeal is a non-starter. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i want to express my support for rex tillerson to be our next secretary of state. mr. tillerson is one of the mos distinguished businessman in the world. his reputation perceives him. i don't have to account for all of you, his remarkable career rising from an entry-level production engineer to c.e.o. of exxonmobil, the largest oil company in the world. mr. tillerson's story should be an inspiration to kids across this country. through hard work, discipline and striving, you can achieve your dreams, even if you weren't born into wealth, power or privilege. like the boy scouts he has mentored, like the eagle scout he was, mr. tillerson inspires by his example. no doubt he has acquired a wide
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range of skills throughout his notable life as well as a gold plated reputation and i think it goes without saying a man of such varied experiences will bring a well informed and true perspective to the post. in fact, i'd suggest it's the very perspective which recommends him most for the job. i met with him in december, and we had a wide ranging conversation about russia, the middle east, human rights, and the many other geo political challenges and opportunities facing our country. i was impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, his familiarity with so many world leaders, and his understanding of their peoples. but the one thing that really stood out to me was his cleareyed, hard nosed prudence. it's little wonder that mr. tillerson comes highly recommended by dick cheney and bob gates, with no illusions about the world and no doubts about america's role in it. i'm confident as secretary of state he will protect the
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interests of the american people just as he protected the interests of exxonmobil's shareholders as their c.e.o. now, i have heard some senators wonder whether a businessman can really walk away from a company and its financial interests as if it were the money that made the man instead of the man who made the money. their concern reminds me of similar questions raised by one of the best secretaries of state in the modern era, george shultz. when president reagan nominated him, secretary schultz was a president, director of the bechtel group, a large construction concern with business across the arab world. people asked whether secretary schultz would therefore tilt u.s. policy towards those countries. i think anyone looking back today on his record would marvel at those fears. in 2015 the world jewish congress awarded secretary schultz its prestigious theodore
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quarts award on behalf of his work with america's good friend israel. yes, secretary schultz went on to lead a very successful tenure working with different countries all over the world and always putting america's interests front and center. if anything, rex tillerson's business experience will only enhance his ability to provide the president his sound, unbiased judgment. if you need any more evidence, just look at the way mr. tillerson has conducted himself throughout the confirmation process. he's answered every question and addressed every concern. he's been calm and steady under pressure. these are precisely the qualities we need in our next secretary of state. so today i offer my strong support for an outstanding businessman and an american patriot, our next secretary of state rex tillerson, and i encourage all of my colleagues to vote for the nomination. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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